The New Orleans City Council has pushed ahead with plans to dismantle four prominent Confederate monuments throughout the city. In the early hours of Monday morning, workers removed the Liberty Place monument, a statue that commemorated members of White League, a white-supremacist group that attempted to topple the biracial post-Civil War local government in 1874. Federal troops eventually restored the elected government, but not before 16 police officers and 19 members of the White League were killed.
The City Council originally voted to remove the statues in 2015, but have been fighting legal battles that have prevented the removal until now. They've also had to deal with dozens of death threats, which resulted in workers having to remove the first statue in the early hours of the morning, wearing military-style helmets and bullet-proof vests. They were watched over by dozens of police officers.
Erected in 1891 when a sympathetic local government was elected, the statue was inscribed in 1932:
"McEnery and Penny having been elected governor and lieutenant-governor by the white people, were duly installed by this overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers, Governor Kellogg and Lieutenant-Governor Antoine. United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state."
In 1974, the city government added a small plaque in front of the monument reading:
"Although the 'battle of Liberty Place' and this monument are important parts of the New Orleans history, the sentiments in favor of white supremacy expressed thereon are contrary to the philosophy and beliefs of present-day New Orleans."
And in 1993, part of the original inscriptions were removed and replaced with:
"In honor of those Americans on both sides who died in the Battle of Liberty Place ... A conflict of the past that should teach us lessons for the future."
As part of the move, the City Council will also remove three other statues dedicated to Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in an interview:
“There’s a better way to use the property these monuments are on and a way that better reflects who we are.”
But others believe that the statues should stay, claiming that the monuments are part of the city’s history and should be protected as historic structures. Robert Bonner, 63, reenacts the Civil War, and is one of those that joined protests against the statue’s removal. He told the Press Herald:
“I think it’s a terrible thing. When you start removing the history of the city, you start losing money. You start losing where you came from and where you’ve been.”
Some, however, issued death threats to city officials and the contractors hired to take the statues down. Mayor Landrieu said that as a result, the city won't be naming the company involved and that all the removals will take place at night so that police can secure the areas to protect workers.
“All of what we will do in the next days will be designed to make sure that we protect everybody, that the workers are safe, the folks around the monuments are safe and that nobody gets hurt.”
The mayor added that the city will store and preserve the statues until an “appropriate” place to display them is determined.
“The monuments are an aberration. They’re actually a denial of our history and they were done in a time when people who still controlled the Confederacy were in charge of this city and it only represents a four-year period in our 1000-year march to where we are today.”
As you can imagine, reaction to the news on social media has been mixed.
The three others statues will be removed in "later days."
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